Without an effective prioritization of tasks, talent, ambition, and drive are useless. By taking a macro approach to prioritization, individuals and organizations can begin using their skills to their fullest potential.
There are several ways to prioritize tasks. Taking a multi-level approach to prioritization will increase one’s efficiency in every month, week, and hour on their schedule. Here’s a preview of all the prioritization approaches we cover at Arootah in our eBook:
- *Macro Approach*–A system of prioritization in which individuals organize their time according to Urgent vs. Important Criteria
- Micro Approach–A system of prioritization in which individuals organize their time according to a detailed and carefully-planned weighting of criteria
- Now Approach–A system of prioritization in which individuals learn to make decisions when unexpected options arise
If effectively prioritizing tasks were easy, the modern workplace would be much less stressful. Unfortunately, one study found that only 9% of the executives studied were “very satisfied” with their time management. Another study reported that employees spent 28% of their work week responding to emails which is not very effective prioritization for anyone running a company!
By clearly defining a macro approach to prioritization, organizations and individuals can guarantee the highest return on time and energy spent. This simple process can save companies who regularly implement prioritization into their schedules a lot of time and energy.
The Time Matrix
The Time Matrix is a system that helps users organize where they spend their time into four categories based on the degree of urgency and importance associated with an activity. To properly prioritize activities and optimize the time spent on them, an understanding of the matrix is essential.
The Time Matrix was designed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower served as a five-star general during WWII and later held the office of President of the United States where he created both NASA and the Interstate Highway System. It’s safe to assume then that he had some great systems for getting the right things done to maximize his return on time.
Stephen Covey, an author best known for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, popularized The Time Matrix in his teachings. Each quadrant is divided into activities, choice (whether or not the activity is optional or flexible), emotion, mindset, energy impact, and return on time invested.
Quadrant 1: Stress–Urgent and Important
Activities: Impending deadlines, health crisis, work crisis
Choice: No –demands immediate attention
Energy impact: Draining and burnout
ROTI: Low (because time is not spent working on the highest long-term priorities that lead to fulfillment)
The Key: Proactively spend more time in Quadrant 2 on prevention of stress so that time doesn’t have to be spent in Quadrant 1 reactively.
Quadrant 2: Fulfillment– Not Urgent and Important
Activities: Relationships, team building, seminars, personal development books, exercise, planning, goal setting, execution on plans, meditation, family bonding, being in the flow activities
Choice: Yes–decide based on priority
Mindset: Proactive–be proactive here because these activities usually don’t have deadlines.
Energy impact: Energizing
The Key: Proactively spend as much time in this quadrant as possible, as this is the zone in which most people find the most life fulfillment
Quadrant 3: Delusion –Urgent and Not Important
Activities: Some texts, emails, social media, some meetings, popular activities
Choice: Yes, but perceived to be no
Emotion: Distraction and delusion
Energy Impact: Draining
ROTI: Low (because time is not spent working on the highest priorities, and is instead squandered)
The Key: Delegate these activities, or fit them around Quadrant 2 activities only if there is enough time.
Quadrant 4: Waste–Not Urgent and Not Important
Activities: Anything excessive such as TV, escapist activities, video games
Choice: Yes, but not perceived (because of addiction)
Emotion: Depressed (it is not fulfilling when no progress is made on the highest priorities)
Energy impact: Draining
ROTI: Zero to negative (time is not spent on any priorities)
The Key: Delete Quadrant 4 activities, instead spend more time in Quadrant 2.
The Eisenhower Box
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Eisenhower Box compliments the Time Matrix by providing simple action steps for each quadrant. It’s meant to be a decision making tool through which users can easily assign (or eliminate actions for different tasks.
By implementing the “do, decide, delegate, delete” system, users can drastically cut down on the time they would ordinarily spend deliberating over tasks. As long as they have assigned a quadrant beforehand, the subsequent action they need to take should be easy to follow.
Quadrant 1– Do: Do the task now
Quadrant 2– Decide: Schedule a time to do this task
Quadrant 3– Delegate: Assign this task to someone else
Quadrant 4– Delete: Eliminate the task
By sticking to this system, individuals using the Eisenhower box and Time Matrix together eliminate the drama of deciding when to complete which task, freeing up more of their time to create a higher impact on their goals.
The Macro Approach
The combination of the Time Matrix (for task organization) and the Eisenhower Box (to identify action steps) is a macro approach to prioritization. It organizes and orders tasks in the broadest sense to help users get the highest return on time and energy.
Utilizing the macro approach should be a weekly task. By organizing, scheduling, and implementing this process early on in the week, you can open up your schedule to make the highest impact on your goals.
By failing to prioritize on a macro level, you may find yourself scrambling to decide how to deal with tasks as they come up. People often tend to spend time in Quadrant 4 (not urgent and not important tasks) when they haven’t prioritized effectively. Quadrant 4 offers an escape from overwhelm but has little ROTI.
The Bottom Line
By clearly defining a macro approach to prioritization, organizations and individuals can guarantee the highest return on time and energy spent.
Prioritization is a skill that everyone must develop in order to maximize their efficiency and reach their full potential. Many talented people suffer from unnecessary stress and overwhelm due to an improper prioritization of the tasks they need to complete in order to meet their goals. Learning when to delegate or delete a task may be difficult to master, but the stress that it will help avoid is invaluable.
We know you’re talented enough to take prioritization seriously, so why not check out our eBook, The 10 Step Arootah Success Formula? It covers our thorough prioritization process, as well as the other skills you need to be successful.
Have you used the Time Matrix to prioritize your time before? What prioritization skills are you looking to develop this year? Let us know in the comments below!